Catholic church plans 234m Sydney skyscraper

The Sydney CBD.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has submitted plans for a super-tall apartment development on the site of the Polding Centre at the southern end of Sydney’s central business district.

But the move, which at first glance could have been viewed as an unlikely move by the church into Sydney’s robust property development scene with a scheme for a 234m tower, is not a precursor to the religious body entering the industry.

Instead, the church is understood to be making the move to best realise value from the long-held site at 133-141 Liverpool St, and is likely to dispose of the property ahead of the next apartment cycle rather than developing on its own.

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Major local and private developers would chase the property if it hit the market as the plans combine a top-flight office complex with luxury apartments.

The Archdiocese is proposing a 61-storey residential tower above an eight-storey commercial podium, with ground-level retail and residential and commercial lobbies, and parking beneath.

The Archdiocese told The Australian it “does not have confirmed intentions for the site beyond seeking Stage 1 development ­approval and is exploring future options”.

The current complex was built in 1977 and includes its own offices so any future sale or development would require a “strategic review” of its own office location.

The property boom has drawn a number of non-traditional players into the residential arena, with supermarket groups Coles and Woolworths working with developers on apartments above their outlets. Shopping centres owners, including Vicinity Centres, have also sold development rights to apartment groups. Stockland is even working with fast food chain McDonald’s on a Parramatta tower.

The initial scheme has been designed by Candalepas and will comprise 70 storeys and six basement levels. The Archdiocese says its development application does not include an architectural design but rather is an indicative scheme to provide rationale for a future application.

The Polding Centre is not a ­locally listed heritage building, as identified in the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012, but the Archdiocese notes that it is adjacent to heritage sites such as the former Snow’s Emporium, the American Tobacco Company and Mark Foys Emporium.

“The proposed envelope has been designed therefore to respond appropriately to the form, scale, presentation and significance of those sites and with no adverse impact on them,” the Archdiocese says in a statement.

The site will be well sought after as several developers already have projects in the area. Mirvac and Coombes Property are planning a super-tall apartment tower at 505-523 George St. Currently home to Event Cinemas, the site was purchased by Coombes in 2009 for $85 million and carries approval for a 260m building.

Works on the Polding Centre would be unlikely to begin before the next cycle, so the building would come after a series of buildings by Lendlease at Barangaroo South and Grocon and Aqualand at Barangaroo Central.

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